Tag Archives: Aland

Plague and Pestilence hits Carra

Jill arrived in the evening bearing gifts – a new rev counter and bacon – what else could a girl ask for! Plus more importantly a puzzle book for Mags as she had finished her last one. The next morning we left in time for the 12 o’clock bridge – given that it is the third time we have past through it in a week – it was positively routine. A great sail across to Lumparland and we were tucked up nicely in Bomarsund as the wind built throughout the day. After lunch of – surprise surprise – corned beef sandwiches, we wandered up to the fort – through the woods. It was a glorious sunny day and a beautiful walk – the path meandered through the trees that were clinging onto the rocks clearly marked as the rocks had been worn smooth, elsewhere the rocks being covered with pillows of sage green lichen. As Jill said “you expected pixies and fairies to be living here”.Bomarsund

The fort with its old Russian canons with the double headed eagles over look the approach to the harbour. We then walked down to the garrison fort and to the plaque for the first VCs that were awarded here.

Bomarsund was a decision point, do we go north about and cross from Sweden from there or do we go south to Rödhamn and cross from there? With strong southerlies for the next few days – we elected to go north about and had a gybe-athon through some rocks. We had both sails up and it was fun getting the gybe angles right for some narrow passages between the rocks.

Mags and her new puzzle book – order is restored on Carra

Once through it was a reach to our next harbour – through quite a wide channel to Hamnsundet. It was completely deserted, so we decided to come along side – as I wanted to polish one side of the hull. It needs to be done once per year and it is much faster and easier from a pontoon than once in the shed where the topsides are 3m from the ground.

We were due to go to an anchorage the next night before turning the corner and coming south to Karingsund. With 2 days of southerly winds ahead I knew we would need to motor and the next day the winds were lighter so we elected to go straight to Karingsund. Which in the end was very fortuitous, but more of that later…..

DSC07364Frustratingly as we turned the corner to head south so did the wind – but at least with lots of islands and rock to negotiate it did flatten out the sea. According to the chart there were navigation buoys directing you around the shallow, narrow entrance into the harbour– but all bar one set were missing. Karingsund is a perfect harbour, very sheltered from all directions and an old fishing harbour with lots of fishing huts lining the natural bay in various states of repair.

About 2 weeks ago Mags had been bitten by a tick. Ticks here can carry lyme disease and TBE. We had been vaccinated in Finland against TBE on the Punkkibussi – a bus that came to the supermarket. But there is no vaccination against lyme disease. I had removed the tick but it was very small and didn’t appear to be full of blood so didn’t think it would cause a problem. After a few days the bite disappeared, so all was well…… Until today when Mags had a red rash about 8cm wide. I was 100% sure this was Lyme’s disease, which can be a life changing, disabling disease if not treated quickly. So we got into a taxi and went straight to the hospital and sure enough Mags was diagnosed with lyme disease. So next stop was the chemist to pick up some very strong antibotics. As the Doctor said she was lucky to have had the rash – not everyone does and that is when it goes untreated with unexplained debilitating symptoms . But he was confident catching it so early meant that she would fully recovery. Also we were grateful that Mags got treated in an area where it is prevalent, so they knew the signs and issued the antibiotics immediately rather than waiting for the results of a blood test which don’t appear positive for some time. Hence many places delay the treatment and then wonder why they have high rates of untreatable lyme disease.

Although Mariehamn looked empty we found a restaurant full of locals and the Schnitzel lunch hit the spot – thanks Jill. The trip into town also allowed us to do some food shopping and overt a beer crisis onboard Carra. Throughout the day Mags had been feeling more unwell. Amongst other symptoms extreme fatigue is one of the impacts of the disease.

Early morning in Karingsund
Back in Swedish waters

There was an early morning fog in the air when we left Karingsund, but it soon cleared and with F2/3 wind just forward of the beam we had a lovely sail with all 3 sails up we were making great progress. Bacon butties were most welcome as a mid morning snack – given that breakfast had been early o’clock. The smell of bacon buttie didn’t even raise Mags, so I knew she wasn’t well. Quite quickly we lost visibility of the Aland’s and Jill and I sailed ….. Mags slept.

Soon we were weaving our way into Arholma’s West harbour- a pretty harbour with your typical red houses and wooden boat houses supported on stones. We tucked in behind the floating loo and anchored.

Life on Arholma

Jill and I went for a stroll round the island – in theory to look at the island but in reality in search of cinnamon buns. With all tourists gone there were only locals (70 live here all year round) and they seemed to be able to survive without cinnamon buns! bakenWe returned having failed in our mission but having explored the church and the beacon at a giddy height of 25m above sea level….. Mags slept.

Jill visiting the floating loo

Jill was determined to use all items of clothing she had brought and the swimming costume was yet to be used. So decided to visit the loo by swimming to it. Mags occasionally surfaced but soon went back to bed and ….Mags slept

Our next destination Sjalbottna, a lovely anchorage but we couldn’t be believe it was to be the last of our cruise. With a gentle breeze we were able to tack our way between the rocks, it is great fun – planning your tacks to avoid the rocky islands. Jill and I dodged the small yellow ferries that shuttle between islands and managed to sail virtually all the way to the anchorage..….. Mags slept.

As we were taking Carra out of the water we needed to fill up Carra with fuel – so headed for Vaxholm and were able to sail all the way. This time ferry dodging was with the big ships that come into Stockholm and if it wasn’t for our ability to see them electronic – you would get quite a shock as you don’t see them behind the islands……. Mags slept…. only surfacing for the ferry.


You could tell we were back in the Stockholm Archipelago as there were the white ghostly islands – all vegetation being killed off with Cormorant poo. DSC07430Once anything growing us dead, the birds move off and after a while it regenerates. You know when you are downwind of one of these islands. Once tied up at Vaxholm – Jill went off in search of cinnamon buns and was successful! We made our way back to the Marina. Sad that the cruise was over but pleased that we had completed our trip and had seen everything that we had wanted to see and been able to share our adventure with so many friends……. Mags was awake!


The joys of Lymes disease is that that once you have started the antibiotics you feel worse as the dead bacteria appear to have their revenge as they float around your system waiting for your body to remove them. Mags has had some rough days since coming back to the marina but every day has felt better and is nearly back to normal.

Windy weather in Lumparland

With only 1.5 hours between friends, we had a quick clean of the boat and had just about finished when Caron and Yvonne arrived bearing gifts. A vented loop (don’t ask – it is for the loo) and salad cream essential for my corned beef sandwiches which now are a key ingredient of my stable diet, due to the 25 tins we had on board – and now down to the last 6! We have made less progress on the cuppa soup mountain though, which is less appealing in hot weather.

The windy weather looked set in for the week which was frustrating – but not much we could do about it. But there was an opportunity to get to a harbour before the next front came through with 30 knots winds. We were heading to Lumparland – part of the mainland or in our minds home to Willy Wonker.

The narrow canal Photo: Caron

But to get there we had to go through a narrow canal with a bridge opening that meant we had to leave at 1110 on the dot. So safety brief done, we cast off and timed our arrival at the bridge for 1200. There were a couple of boats coming the other way and it felt like we were squeezing through – it always seems a challenge the first time…. Mast just past the bridge, it swung shut and we had a good downwind sail across open water. This route was the approach the British and French Warships used to sneak up on the Russian Fort at Bomarsund. The battle was part of the Crimea War and the warships took 48 hours to destroy the fort that the Russians had taken 10 years to build. A simple case of the Russians expecting the attack from a different direction. Given the rocks it must have been an impressive bit of sailing getting the warships so close.

DSC07250Bomarsund is one of our favourite Aland Island harbours. Stunning red rocky cliffs provide a dramatic backdrop for the deep harbour which has been used for centuries by old sailing vessels. The vessels being tied to the rocks with big rings that are still used today. Trees and lichen cling onto to rocks and gravity defying angles with little sign of soil. The board walk follows the contour of the rock and is suspended over the water and more importantly it is incredible sheltered from any southerly winds. So the only sign of the near gale blowing were the trees on the top of the cliff.

c and y 2The following morning Caron and Yvonne went off to explore the fort – we stayed on Carra and caught up with some admin. The wind was due to drop slightly in the afternoon and with a downwind sail – it looked like there was an opportunity to sail. But at lunch time you could see it was still very strong wind – so we decided to stay put.

Looking at the bowels of the boat on her phone

Caron and I then set off to explore the heads to see if we could solve the problem by way of a boat colonoscopy – with a go pro camera on a pole we explored parts of Carra that had not seen day light for some time. Caron’s knowledge of pumps was very helpful – whilst we couldn’t solve it – we were able to eliminate a couple of causes and I was better able to describe the problem in terms of pump pressures.

The sunset that evening was the essence of tranquility and beauty. ( see banner photo – by Caron)

As is often the way with windy weather, once past we found ourselves becalmed and so we motored to Kastleholm. Enroute were treated to a very close view of a sea eagle spiralling down to the waters edge – the closest we have been to one. Crossing our path on our way to our harbour was an electric cable which was 22m from the water – we require 19m so in theory there should be 3m spare – but it looks like cms from the deck – which is why I find it easier not to look. So I just had to ignore Mags saying “are you sure we will fit under” and go for it.

Having had strong southerlies we now picked Kastleholm as was good shelter from the strong northerlies for the next few days. We explored the Jan Karlsgården museum in the morning – although it was the second time that week it was still very interesting.

Whilst it was windy the sun was shinning, so we had a great 25km cycle ride around a nearby lake – which was rewarded with cinnamon buns that Caron had bought earlier.

gor in mist
Early morning mist Photo: Caron

I was frustrated that we hadn’t been able to show Caron and Yvonne any harbours beyond Lumparland. But provided we were quick we could get out to Rodhamn the next morning and show them the outer Archipelago before the next windy weather arrived. We awoke at 0530 with mist swirling on the water and as we set off the sun shone through the mist it was magical. We sailed all the way back to the bridge and made it through the first opening at 9am. Passing through for the second time … it seemed less scary.

Focusing on rocks and beating another boat

After some tactical tacking we arrived at Rodhamn at 11am. Rodhamn is another favourite of ours but we had never seen it deserted before, indicative of the sailing season being over here.

sign rod
The leading lights of Rodhamn! Photo: Caron

We had the choice of spots on the wooden staging. We went off and explored the island – to my horror I saw a small snake ( I hate snakes). Thankfully it was small, so I managed to suppress my inner desire to scream but with evil yellow eye lids – I wasn’t getting any closer.

rodhamn 1With the wind due to increase soon we only stopped for an hour before sailing back up to Mariehamn.

Caron loves sheds – so the old harbour was a brilliant shed spotters paradise. A wonderful old working boat yard with lots of boat sheds – some on land, some over the water but all focused on restoring old wooden sailing boats. It is a favourite spot of ours in the grand metropolis that is Mariehamn, think small town with a parochial feel but that makes it sound way too lively.

We strolled over to the other harbour and pondered who was the owner of the £46 million super yacht called Africa 1 – we were convinced it was some despot African dictator. Mags asked one of the crew but despite her teachers integration – they didn’t divulge the owner, as they are sworn to secrecy. This only reinforced our view, definitely dodgy money.

Caron and Yvonne treated us to a delicious meal in Mariehamn. They left on the 9am ferry, with Jill not arriving for another 12 hours we were able to get ahead on the admin – aka laundry!

Ferry Dodging

We left Pia and Juhana’s secret harbour in the sunshine but it was soon replaced with grey skies with that ominous look and within an hour it was raining. We can’t complain given that we have been sailing since May and today was only the second day since then that we have had to don our oilies.mags

Many of the islands have small yellow car ferries connecting them, they beetle back and forth and leave as soon as they fill up. Unusually one waited for us to sail past. We dropped anchor near Korpoström in a very sheltered spot which was surrounded by traditional summer cottages.DSC07127

We awoke to a mirror smooth water – but this was more a reflection of the sheltered anchorage than the true wind strength. Whilst we were in the lee of the land it was relatively calm but as soon as we lost it’s protection both our reefs (making the sail smaller) were needed. We tacked out amongst the last of the skerries and we were in fairly open water for a couple of hours. Creaming along at 7 knots. As we neared the Island of Kökar, we were passing through a narrow channel marked by buoys, I had been checking off the buoys as we passed them with the boat on autohelm. DSC07156I clearly was daydreaming at one point and suddenly saw that we were about to pass the wrong side of a cardinal buoy – marking a rock…… quickly I took the boat off autohelm and at the last minute past the right side of the buoy….that was a bit of a wake up call! We dropped anchor in Sandvik for the night.DSC07153

Our next port of call was Rödhamn which is SW from Sandvik – but the direct route is not buoyed and many rocks are uncharted – so to follow the buoyed route you have to go north for 5 miles and hence it is 10 miles longer than a direct route. However, Juhana had given us the waypoints for a short cut through the rocks – DSC07166which was a big help but we were grateful that the weather was benign for our first attempt. It was beautiful but rocky with those you could see and scary for those you couldn’t. It was a relief to be out into open water – but now the hazards were ferries – within 20 minutes, 3 had passed through a narrow, shallow gap. The one that Mags said “they will never go down this one it is too shallow”. We never learn – I think we had said the exact same thing a few years ago at another pinch point – so we had to do a quick change of course to get out of the way into safe water. We dropped the sail in the tranquil waters of Rödhamn harbour and then anchored.

In a light wind, we drifted towards Mariehamn. Mags would only put up with my desire to sail for so long before I was reminded that we had a lot to do once we got in… we had friends arriving and no food onboard – we had last seen a supermarket 2 weeks ago. There was a crisis looming too, as we had just eaten our last ship’s biscuit – essential for Carra’s crew’s well being. The engine whirred into life and we moored in Mariehamn East harbour mindful that we were expecting a few days of strong winds. We cycled off to the supermarket to restock. My little eyes lit up when I spied hobnobs on the shelf…. We had last had these in May!

DSC07190Sharon arrived early; it was lovely to see her finally as we had been to her house in Helsinki and she had stayed in ours over the summer – but we had missed each other. Sadly the weather was not conducive to sailing, even through the harbour was sheltered the top of the trees reflected the true strength of the wind. We set off to explore Mariehamn, wandering through the main street and wide boulevard to the west harbour.

Part of the Fort at Bomarsund

We hired a car the next day, given the weather sailing was still not an option; so we drove out to Karlingsund for lunch and then to Bomarsund – where the first VCs were awarded.DSC07199

Then onto Kastleholm where we came across a real gem the open air museum – Jan Karlsgården. Many traditional buildings and windmills showing the former life in the Aland Islands.DSC07208

Throughout our trip we have been fender challenge missionaries – spreading the challenge to various other boat crews around the Baltic. Sharon was keen to try it, so we packed the car with 2 fenders and went off to a swimming beach. They ( I was not going in) waded out and fenders were seen rocketing skyward with much hilarity. Soon Sharon mastered the fender challenge and I managed to capture both of them doing synchronised “Yeeha” – the cry that is uttered when you are astride the fender with one hand in the air.


Sharon left early and we had 1.5 hours before Caron and Yvonne arrived.